There is a total of 47 prefectures in Japan.
Just as the townscapes, activities, and gourmet foods differ from region to region, the characteristics of local people also vary. In this series, we will delve into the local circumstances of each prefecture by introducing attractions and local people's tidbits.
This time, we will focus on Niigata Prefecture, which borders the Sea of Japan. Niigata is known for the Nagaoka Festival fireworks display in the summer, the snowfall in the winter, the Kamakura Cafe in Tokamachi City, and ski tourism such as the Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort and Naeba Ski Resort.
It is also famous for Japanese sake as one of the best rice producing areas in Japan. Let's learn about Niigata Prefecture together this time.
Is Niigata Prefecture in Kanto Koshinetsu, Chubu, or Hokuriku? Even the citizens are vague about what region Niigata belongs to
Each prefecture in Japan is classified into Kanto, Kansai, Shikoku, Kyushu, etc. However, for some prefectures, it is difficult to answer immediately when asked if it is "○○ region", and Niigata Prefecture is a representative example!
Niigata Prefecture is often counted to as "Chubu region" in Japanese school textbooks. This is the case where Japan is divided into 7 regions (Kyushu, Chugoku & Shikoku, Kinki, Chubu, Kanto, Tohoku, and Hokkaido).
However, the electric power company of Niigata Prefecture is Tohoku Electric Power, while the main gas company is Hokuriku Gas. Moreover, Niigata is classified as "Kanto Koshinetsu" in the weather forecast of public broadcaster NHK. For this reason, even among the citizens of the prefecture, opinions are divided as to whether Niigata is in the ○○ region. There are often people who appeal their love for their hometown, saying, "Niigata is not confined to the ○○ region. Niigata is Niigata!"
By the way, the Niigata Prefectural Government has clearly stated that "there is no official classification from prefectural government" when it was interviewed by various media asking "Is Niigata in ○○ region?" One of the identities of Niigata Prefecture is that it can no longer be classified as any specific ○○ area.
Niigata is long in the north-south direction. Thanks to Niigata Port, the prefecture has a long history of connecting with various regions. It can be said that the current Niigata culture has been nurtured through contact with various prefectures and regions since there are no regional boundaries.
Niigata citizens are strongly oriented toward Tokyo! Express bus tours between Tokyo and Niigata are also popular
Sometimes Niigata Prefecture is classified as part of the Kanto Koshinetsu region. The truth is, did you know that Niigata citizens are surprisingly strongly oriented toward Tokyo?
In fact, one of the top Japanese YouTubers, HIKAKIN, is from Niigata Prefecture. In addition, there are many famous celebrities such as Ken Watanabe and Sachiko Kobayashi who moved to Tokyo from Niigata Prefecture.
From 2011 to 2019, Yoshinogawa, a sake maker in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture, has published a series of advertisements called "Tokyo Niigata Story" on the Joetsu Shinkansen. The ads featured four female from Niigata who have moved to Tokyo with impressive photos and catchphrases expressing their feelings were developed.
So why is moving to Tokyo so popular? This is because you can travel between Niigata and Tokyo in a relatively short time of about two hours on the Joetsu Shinkansen. Highway buses and late-night (overnight) buses also run between Niigata and Tokyo. With a price range of 2,000 yen to 3,000 yen, which is much cheaper than the Shinkansen, citizens can go all the way to Tokyo easily.
Pears, green soybeans, persimmon seeds... Niigata is an unexpected gourmet kingdom more than just Uonuma's Koshihikari rice!
Speaking of Niigata Prefecture, it is famous for its nationwide famous brand rice, Koshihikari. However, Niigata has a lot more other delicious foods than just rice, such as Le Lectier pears and edamame, which boasts one of the highest production volumes in Japan! From here, we will introduce some of Niigata's hidden specialties!
Phantom pear Le Lectier – A highly rare species that used to be a secret to keep inside Niigata Prefecture!?
At the top of the hidden specialty of Niigata Prefecture list is the "Le Lectier" pear, which is said to be a phantom pear.
Le Lectier is known as the "Phantom Pear" because of its delicious taste, praised as the "Noble Lady of Western Pears" and its low production volume and high rarity value.
Originally, saplings were ordered from France in 1903 and cultivated, but due to the difficulty of cultivation, it did not spread nationwide. It is said that only pear farmers in Niigata Prefecture were doing their own cultivation.
Currently, it is also produced outside of Niigata, and although the production volume has increased, it is still rare and not available in large numbers, hence it is called the "phantom pear".
Each fruit weighs between 300 and 450g, which is about one size larger than La France. It is characterized by its rich aroma, rich sweetness, and fine texture of the flesh.
Niigata Prefecture is Japan's premier "edamame prefecture"! No. 1 in Japan for both planted area and consumption
Another specialty of Niigata is edamame (immature soybean). Being Japan's premier "edamame prefecture," Niigata's planted area of edamame is actually number one in Japan.
However, for some reason, the amount of shipment is at the 7th place in the country. (*From the 2020 Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries vegetable production and shipment statistics)
The reason why there is such a difference in the ranking is that local edamame is so delicious that even if the Niigata citizens produce a lot of it, they will eat it with their family and acquaintances instead of shipping it all.
Among ordinance-designated cities, Niigata City is the largest purchaser of edamame, and it is common for Niigata residents to eat heaps of edamame in a large colander.
In Niigata Prefecture, various varieties of edamame are available from May to October, but the taste is completely different when compared. If you have a chance to visit Niigata for sightseeing, why not try Niigata edamame at an izakaya to taste one for yourself?
Other articles in 【47 Prefecture's of Japan】 series:
- Is Niigata Prefecture in Kanto Koshinetsu, Chubu, or Hokuriku? Even the citizens are vague about what region Niigata belongs to
- Niigata citizens are strongly oriented toward Tokyo! Express bus tours between Tokyo and Niigata are also popular
- Pears, green soybeans, persimmon seeds... Niigata is an unexpected gourmet kingdom more than just Uonuma's Koshihikari rice!